El Dorado County, CA
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Coloma’s Full Story – Official: Monroe Family Integral Chapter in Community History

One of Matt Sugarman's missions as park superintendent of Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is to tell the full history of Coloma. "I think people understand Coloma as Hollywood a glitzy Gold Rush town," Sugarman said. "Coloma was a raucous, dirty, filthy place. It wasn't "Paint Your Wagon.' There were a lot of people struggling for survival." One part of Coloma's rich history that has been overlooked, he said, is the story of African Americans who lived in the El Dorado County community. "I believe we should tell the full history," Sugarman said. "We need to acknowledge some of the negative things that were going on. I think it's important to acknowledge those (racial) boundaries and step over them." One step toward crossing those boundaries came in April, when the Monroe Ridge Trail was dedicated. Sugarman recommended that the state parks department name the trail after the Monroes, a pioneer African American family in Coloma dating back to 1849. The state agreed. A second memorial to the Monroe family is planned at 10 a.m. June 12, when a plaque dedicating the old Monroe house will be presented by the James W. Marshall Chapter of E. Clampus Vitus, a group dedicated to identifying historic sites. In May, Placerville residents Al and Trude Mynsted purchased a headstone listing Nancy and Peter Gooch, the Gooches' son, Jim Monroe, Jim's wife, Sarah, and their seven children, all of whom are buried at Coloma's Pioneer Cemetery. The headstone is to be delivered to the cemetery in July. Al Mynsted, 80, is a lifelong friend of the Monroes, and Trude became acquainted with the family when she married Al 58 years ago. The Monroe family history was only compiled about two years ago, Sugarman said. Its history in Coloma starts in 1849, when Nancy Gooch was brought to the town as a slave. Gooch gained her freedom because slavery was not allowed during the Gold Rush. When California became a state in 1850, it joined the union as a free state. But Gooch had a son, Andrew Monroe, whom she had left behind as a slave in Missouri. She purchased Andrew's freedom, and as a young man, Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ellen, moved into his mother's home after traveling to California by covered wagon. Although Sugarman said it is unclear what year Andrew Monroe came to California. Andrew was born in 1849 and was married before he came West. The Monroes acquired about 80 acres for a fruit farm run by Andrew Monroe and two of his sons, Jim and Almariah, better known as Pearley. It was Andrew Monroe who buried James Marshall in 1885. Marshall had discovered gold in Coloma in 1848. Sarah Ellen bore nine children between 1868 and 1892, including two who died at birth. The best-known and most outgoing Monroe offspring was Pearley, who was born in 1868 and died in 1963 at the age of 94. "He was a wonderful fellow," said Al Mynsted, who met Pearley at the age of 5 when Mynsted began visiting his aunt and uncle, the Leonardis, on their cattle ranch in Lotus. "Pearley knew the Bible better than anybody I knew," Mynsted said. "He never had a bad word for anybody." Although the Monroes were treated fairly well in Coloma, Sugarman said, racial discrimination did take place during the town's earlier days. "I know of some (discrimination) that happened to Pearley Monroe directly," he said. During an oral history interview in 1925, Ethel Thompson Wilson, a teacher in Coloma's one-room schoolhouse who lived in what is now the Vineyard House, said she became friends with Pearley Monroe, who worked in the kitchen at the house, which was then a boarding house. Wilson, who was white, invited Pearley to have dinner with her in the dining room, Sugarman said, but the owner said Pearley could eat only in the kitchen because he was African American. "It may have been an isolated occurrence, but I don't think so," Sugarman said. "It was quiet (discrimination), I am sure. It was unspoken." The Mynsteds' friendship with the Monroes gave Trude Mynsted, a greater understanding of African Americans. "I was raised in Sacramento to not mix with Negroes," she said. "But all you can say (about the Monroes) is that they were good, good people." Another family friend, LeRoy Evans, who visited Pearley Monroe frequently from 1955 until Pearley's death in 1963, saw more racial prejudice in Placerville than in Coloma. "Placerville was a very prejudiced town," said Evans, an African American who is now in his 70s. "We avoided Placerville as much as possible. They'd look at you like you were an outcast or from outer space. And then you'd run into somebody in Coloma and you're treated like family," he said. Evans fell in love with Coloma after meeting Pearley at a Masonic Lodge meeting in Sacramento. Evans and Pearley Monroe became very close in the mid-1950s. "He'd tell everybody, "That's my son,'" said Evans, who now lives near Executive Airport in South Sacramento. "That's how I got the name Little Pearley. We got along so good he was like a dad." After meeting Pearley Monroe in 1955, Evans went to Coloma at 5 a.m. each day from his home at 12th Avenue and 40th Street and returned to North Highlands in time for swing shift at McClellan Air Force Base, where he was a civilian aircraft mechanic. On the 320-acre Monroe ranch, Evans rebuilt a cabin and barn, cut hay and took care of livestock. "That was one of the best eight years of my life," Evans said. Evans and Al Mynsted hunted deer with Pearley Monroe as well. "Pearley would say, "If you can't eat it or wear it, leave it alone,'" Evans said. "He was quite an ecologist." Pearley owned an auto repair shop where Coloma's blacksmith shop is now, and he was a garbage collector for the city of Sacramento and a custodian at the state library next to the Capitol. Pearley's death in 1963 hit Evans hard. He didn't visit Coloma too often after that because he wasn't as close to Pearley's brother, Jim. "I didn't go back because it hurt too much," Evans said. Jim Monroe, who also spent his final years in Sacramento, was the last known surviving member of the Monroe family. He died in 1988 at age 101. Ulysses Grant Monroe, another brother whom the Mynsteds knew, died in 1943 at the age of 73. Despite a family of seven Monroe brothers and sisters, Evans and Mynsted said they believe that none of them had children. Evans' enthusiasm for Coloma was renewed almost two years ago, when he visited the town and ran into a park ranger who said they were about to construct the Monroe Ridge Trail. "They didn't even know where Pearley was buried till 12 years ago," he said. "I showed them." Evans was invited to the dedication of the Monroe Ridge Trail in April and was treated like royalty as rangers asked him to tell stories about the Monroe family. And he saw the Mynsteds for the first time in 25 years. "Now I have something to go (there) for," Evans said. "I still have my ties up there. That town's still got a lot of love." [Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 6-3-1993. Submitted by KKM]


Pioneers of the Georgetown Divide
BILL TELL’S store in the early 1850s, owned by William Pedrini, was a major business establishment in Garden Valley. In 1859, Pedrini’s nephew, Rinaldo Filipini arrived from Switzerland and was given a job as clerk. In 1875, Filipini bought out William Pedrini. A partnershp was formed by Rinaldo Filipini, Massino and Clemente Pedrini. The store was reopened under the name Rinaldo Filipini & Co. In 1909, A.F. Forni became owner, later selling to August Siesnop. The last owner was Arthur Mart, who also located the post office in this building in the 1930s. Later that same decade, fire destroyed the inside of the building. The rock shell and huge iron doors still grace the main business strip of Garden Valley Pioneers of the Georgetown Divide. In 1883, Palo Sioli wrote a history of El Dorado County. Much attention is given to the areas on the Georgetown Divide and its important citizens. In his work, Sioli records not only the lives of several people in Garden Valley, but gives us a look into the multicultural backgrounds of the people who made up California in its infancy. Sioli is a very unprejudiced man, who almost goes out of his way to describe ethnic backgrounds in a considerate way. He also tells colorful tidbits about individual personalities which the following quotes illustrate:
THOMAS JOHNSON of Sailor Flat, so called on account of being located by sailors, was at one time a lively mining Camp and rich in its yield of coarse gold. He was born on the 9th of June, 1843 in Sorain, Denmark. For four years he was engaged on the St. Laurence (Lawrence) mine. He was married November 19, 1867 to Mary Little, a widow who had three children.
RINALDO FILIPPINI is a native of Switzerland where he was born April 17,1849. On the 26th day of September 1859 he left his native land with eighteen young men. They arrived in New York on the 17th of October and on the 20th day of the same month set sail for San Francisco where they arrived November 16, 1859, and on the 1st day of December arrived in Garden Valley. Here he engaged as a clerk in the store of his uncle, who, in company with a partner, was doing business under the firm name of William Tell. In 1865 he was promoted from bar tender, packer, cook, etc., to an interest in the business. In 1875 C. Pedrini (Bill Tell) sold to Clemente Pedrini the firm name of Rinaldo Filippini & Co...They carry on a general merchandising business at Garden Valley in connection with which they also conduct one of the largest dairies in the county, milking in the summer as high as 120 cows... Mr. Filippini was united in marriage to Miss Josephine A. Filippini on the 15th day of March 1865. She was born in Airolo, Switzerland. The 1st day of October 1864, she left her native country and after a pleasant voyage across the ocean, arrived in New York City on October, 1864. She reached San Francisco November 26th of the same year and proceeded at once to El Dorado County. Mr. Filippini is one of the best businessmen in El Dorado County and as such has been prosperous. He is courteous and kind to all who call at his business place.
JOHN GE YOUGH, the Chinese shoemaker of Garden Valley, was born in the Province of Canton, China, August 10, 1846 and is a son of Ge Ya-Ho (note the English translation to Yough). In 1862 he was possessed of a desire to visit the United States, and contrary to the wishes of his parents, he joined with a company of about 30 and started on what he expected would be a pleasure trip, as he fully intended to return to China. After arriving on this coast he heard all his countrymen and friends say they were going to the mountains to dig gold so he joined in and with the assistance of friends, purchased a claim at Johntown. He could not make mining pay, however, and abandoned it to take a place in the home of Mr. Boreland, a shoemaker in the village. He began driving nails and pegs to assist Mr. Boreland, and in a short time became master of the trade. Mr. Boreland and his good wife were kind to him and taught him the English language, which he can read, write and speak quite well. In 1871 he purchased the residence and business of Mr. Boreland and has since conducted a lucrative business, He has the confidence, good will and cooperation of all the best American citizens in the vicinity. He embraced the Christian religion soon after coming to our shores, is temperate and steady in all things, and no man in the community contributes more liberally to the support of church, school or charitable purposes than does John Ge Yough. He has adopted the American style of dress throughout. Is a believer of the Golden Rule and would that there were more such, both among his and our countrymen.
DANIEL W. FOX of Garden Valley is of English and German descent. He was born in the town of Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut, March 17, 1825. He learned the paper making business in New England. In 1852 he came via the Nicaragua Route to California and engaged in mining on Cedar Ravine, thence to the Middle Fork and from there to Georgetown, where he had a successful run on mining on the Manhattan Creek. In 1857 he removed to his present home near Garden Valley. Mr. and Mrs. Fox were united in marriage at Willamantic, Connecticut, on May 12, 1850. Her maiden name was Ann El Bliven. En route to the Pacific Coast, Mr. Fox was shipwrecked. This misfortune, together with assisting his three comrades, left him with less than $8 when be arrived in El Dorado County; hence, to those who know him and his surroundings, it is quite apparent that he has been successful in his efforts to accumulate property, In company with Mr. Russell, he owned the Rosecrans quartz mine, one of the best in the county. He has been a liberal supporter of the public school in Garden Valley. His home is beautifully located and pleasantly surrounded and with sufficient to support themselves and their children and can spend their declining years in full confidence that life has not been in vain with them. (The Fox ranch was a vast piece of acreage located behind the CDF station in Garden Valley.)
HENRY WARREN RUSSELL was born at Andover, Massachusetts, October 20, 1829, the twelfth child of a family of thirteen. After Henry was 18 years old he went to learn the machinist’s trade...He came to California in 1852 and in1855 settled at Garden Valley and began mining at Happy Flat. He worked it over two miles in length, and when done mining improved it for agricultural purposes. He has 170 acres in his farm at Garden Valley. He was one of the owners of the Rosecrans mine. He was married December 25, 1886 to Miss A. E. Treat, a native of Michigan. Mr. Russell is a member of the Masonic Lodge at Georgetown and of the Royal Arch Chapter at Placerville. In religion, he was a Protestant, in politics, a Republican.
BENJAMIN W. HARTLESS came to California from Carroll County, Missouri. He followed mining in Nevada City, Little Fork of the American River, and on Dry Creek near Georgetown, until 1858, then began dairying and farming at Garden Valley. He married to Mrs. Wakefield, April 23, 1871. They reside on 160 acres. Many more names still echo throughout the pages of Garden Valley history, such as Burlingham, Jake Smith, Putnam, Beatty, Robinson, Lawrence, Wade, Taylor, George and Stephen Pierce, Elihu Smith, A.C. Henry, Wagner, Reese, Johnson, Schlein, Wallingford, Murphy, Hamilton, McClintick, Daniel Hindle, Richard Markness. V. W. D. Phillips, and many more. These were such that built Johntown, Garden Valley, and surrounding vicinity in the early days of the Georgetown Divide.

 [Placerville Mountain Democrat, Tuesday, 9-12-2000. Submitted by KKM]


El Dorado County - They Came From All Over

Even though the Irish were quite influential in the mining districts, their name was left behind only at Irishtown and Irish Hill in Amador County, Irishman’s Bar in Nevada County, and Irish Creek in El Dorado County.
Irish Creek: Even though it was called Irish Creek, many other nationalities are associated with this creek which is found between Garden Valley and Kelsey on the Georgetown Divide. One of the largest settlements of Kanakas in El Dorado County was found on a plateau between Irish and Slate creeks near Garden Valley. This location was called Kanaka Diggings or Kanaka Town. According to Phyllis Gernes in her book Hidden in the Chaparral. “The area they mined was below the small falls on Irish Creek. They built houses and a large building, which was thought to have been used as a church. It is possible that several hundred people lived there, but if so, only for a short time, as the population was decimated by a smallpox epidemic. By the1880s there were three or four Kanakas and a few Chilenos still living there.’’ Another important figure in the Irish Creek area was Chief Coppa Hembo, chief of all the Indians of Irish Creek, Kelsey, and Mosquito. He was buried at the Indian burial grounds near Irish Creek. It was here in the fall of 1905 that the last Indian “cry’’ in El Dorado County was held. It lasted for two or three days, and Indians came from as far away as Amador and Placer counties, and a few, from Grass Valley and Nevada City. An old Indian told the late Warren T. Russell at that time that it was likely the last Indian cry, saying, “The old Indians, all gone, young Indians ashamed, no cry.”


Hackomiller Road’s Henry Hakemoller:

Among the first wave of miners to reach the gold fields was Henry Hakemoller who was born in Germany. In 1849 he was among the first to work Irish Creek near Garden Valley. The portion he worked was known as the falls. From there he went to Murderers Bar in the summer of 1850 and back to Irish Creek for the winter. He settled at nearby Peru where he was partners with a Mr. Pierson who was later murdered by robbers in their establishment. Hakemoller was a teamster and had a 172-acre ranch where he had a goodly sized orchard. In 1858 he married Mary Mahnen of Prussia and they had five children. Hackomiller Road that runs from Black Oak Mine Road to the Garden Valley-Kelsey Road is named for Hakemoller.

Dormondys of Green Springs:

In a rare entry in Sioli’s 1883 History of El Dorado County, there is a lengthy reference to a woman, Mrs. Sarah F. Dormondy of Green Springs. She came to the United States from the County of Galway, Ireland when she was only 3 years old. In 1856, after one year in California, she married William Dormondy who was born in the County of Kilkenny, Ireland. He was considered a pioneer merchant of El Dorado County, having opened a store at Kelsey, Georgetown, and Coloma. He was very active in the community and a successful businessman. William and Sarah had eight children before he met with an untimely death due to a team of horses running away from his wagon. Upon his death, Sarah continued the large estate of over 1,000 acres with the help of her four sons and four daughters. On two separate occasions, the place was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. The ranch was used for stock raising and the growing of hay with 54 living springs of water on the land, which helped produce in incredible quantities. “In the palmy days, it was a popular retreat for travelers, wedding parties, etc.’’

The William Othicks of Coloma:

Another lady from Ireland was Mary Quinn who was born in the County of Down. She married William Othick who was an early miner in the Kelsey district before settling in Coloma in 1852, where he opened a store. There he found the luck of the Irish with him as a miner and a merchant. Sioli records that he had taken “out as much as $1,500 in one day and from $15,000 to $30,000 per annum, for three years.’’ In 1854 he ran a stage line between Coloma and Auburn, charging $6 per passenger, while in his store he sold flour for as high as $45 per 100 pounds.’’ In 1856 he began farming. He put in 400 apple, 700 peach, 50 pear, 200 plum trees, together with about 11,000 vines, producing from 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of wine annually, all on 92 acres. Together Mary and William had six children and were considered very prominent citizens in the community. James Marshall often went to Othick’s Winery to enjoy a glass of wine with Othick.

The John Poors of the Georgetown Divide:

Susan Smith was born in Cork, Ireland and came to California when she was 22 years old. One year later she married John Poor who was a prosperous miner in Columbia Flat, Peru and the camp of Louisville near Kelsey. Poor established himself in business there in 1867 at what was called Poor’s Store on the corner of what is now Highway 193 and Spanish Flat Road. Poor himself was born in Concord, N.H. and “when quite a boy he went to sea on board an old `Spouter,’ or whaling vessel, and in the service of such has traveled the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and beyond.’’ Susan and William had four children, ran a small farm, mined and ran the store, which was destroyed by fire in 1881 and rebuilt. When Poor built his and Susan’s house at Louisville, a mile or so from Kelsey, he employed James Marshall, the discoverer of gold who was living at Kelsey at the time to put in all the wainscoting and cabinets. Marshall also made some of the furniture, including three single beds and one double bed. Marshall also made a table and put Poor’s name in one of the drawers. Marshall often walked the two miles to Poor’s Store to get the newspapers. When Marshall died in Kelsey, John Poor was among the men at the coroner’s inquest that determined Marshall had “died from natural causes.’’

Thomas Allen:

Another Irishman to make his way to the Georgetown Divide and the heart of James Marshall was Thomas Allen. He left Ireland with his parents in 1833 and lived in Canada and worked on the Erie Canal. While there he married. But upon the death of his wife in 1853, the cry of gold in California became so loud it lured him west. Allen remained a bachelor throughout the remainder of his life. While in Kelsey he became partners with James Marshall in the Grey Eagle mine. Allen later sold his interest to Marshall for the sum of $10. Marshall’s favorite hangout while living in Kelsey was Thomas Allen’s Pioneer Saloon. “This saloon,’’ wrote Theresa Gay in her book James W. Marshall: A Biography, “was an old weather beaten frame building which stood on the south side of a little rise of ground and directly across the street from Marshall’s dwelling. It was one story high with the barroom in front. Mr. Allen’s living quarters, consisting of a kitchen and one or two bedrooms, were in the rear. The cellar underneath was reached by a trap-door and stairs from the end of the bar. In front was an open porch the width of the building. Sometimes on pleasant days the customers brought out chairs from the barroom... a saloon quite typical of those in the mining towns throughout California’s Mother Lode ... Marshall was a regular at Tom Allen’s saloon. He and its proprietor were good friends ... In the barroom Marshall had what he considered his private chair by the front window. The chair, of course, did not belong to him, but if he came in and found anyone sitting in it, that person was curtly asked to vacate.’’ When Marshall died in Kelsey, Tom Allen was the second on the scene.


Alex T. Lee of the Georgetown Divide:

Alex wasn’t born in Ireland, but his parents, William and Elizabeth Lee were. His father died when he was only 15 and young Alex stayed by his mother’s side as her caretaker. The cry of gold traveled to his New Jersey home and even his dedication to his mother couldn’t keep him there. In 1852 he arrived in El Dorado County and made his home in Georgetown for 20 years before moving to Greenwood and opening a hotel. He was married twice and had five children.


James Garlen O’Brien of Coloma:

Another young man of Irish descent was James Garlen O’Brien who came to California in 1850. His first mining venture was in Georgetown, followed by Negro Hill, Grapevine, the Bear River and finally back to Coloma where he opened a grocery and provision store at the end of the bridge on the north side of the river. After wandering north for a while, he came back to Coloma and put in “one of the largest orchards in the county ... one of the most thoroughly cultivated farms in the county, and on it we found about 600 apple trees, 2,500 peach, 300 plum, 50 pear, 200 nectarine, 25 apricots, besides figs, cherries, persimmons, papaws, hackberry, black walnut, and shellbark hickory.’’


Senator John Conness of Georgetown:

Another powerful political figure from Ireland was John Conness. He lived in Georgetown from 1849 to 1866. He first mined on Travers Creek and later established a residence in town and went into business there. When the town was destroyed by fire, he was among the founding fathers who laid out the new Georgetown higher on the ridge with streets 100 feet wide. He rebuilt in association of William Reed, building on the northeast corner of Main and Sacramento streets under the name of Conness & Reed, a general store. In 1853 Conness was elected to the state Assembly while he continued to run his Georgetown business. In 1856 fire struck the town again and burned him out. In 1859 Conness was elected to fill a vacancy left in the state Senate by C.M. Robinson of Coloma. He was reelected in 1860. When Conness first ran for governor in 1861 he was defeated but didn’t give up politics. In 1863 he was elected as a Union Republican to the United States Senate and served until1869.


Francis Graham of Georgetown:

Francis Graham came to Georgetown from Ireland late in the summer a 1849 and established a store which was later burned out in the fire of 1852. When the town was rebuilt he went into partnership with Frank Dye. Later he went into the cattle business with John Dorsey. When fire hit in 1856, Graham’s Main Street business went up in the ashes. When he rebuilt he went into business, associated with John J. Spear, agent for the Wells Fargo Co. In 1868 Graham sold out and moved to Sacramento, where he died two years later.

A not-so-lucky Irishman:

William Barney Hughes came to the United States as a youth and learned the stone cutting business in New York. At the expiration of his apprenticeship he joined the Stephansen Regiment of the New York Volunteers, 1846, which organized for California during the Mexican War. While on ship he was nicknamed Barney and the name stuck with him throughout his life. His stint in the army placed him strategically in California when the shout of gold was given. He first mined on the Middle Fork of the American River and then at Spanish Dry Diggings and from there to the Beatie Claim at Georgia Slide. While working there his good friend John Lee was trapped in a cave in and killed. Barney procured a marble slab, had it conveyed to his cabin in Georgetown, and with cutting tools he cut and finished “as neat a head-stone to the memory of Lee, as any to be found in the country.’’ Three years later Barney died in the same manner as Lee, from a cave-in on the Beatie Claim.Barney Hugh’s remains were placed by the side of Lee in the cemetery at Georgetown, but no such headstone as he made for Lee marks his grave.’’

 [Placerville Mountain Democrat, Tuesday, 9-12-2000. Submitted by KKM]

 


Prominent Pioneers of Greenwood

One of Greenwood’s most prominent pioneers was Charles Nagler. Born in Alsace, France in 1829, he came to the United States in 1853 after working as a baker in France, Germany, Switzerland, and in Africa. He came to California in the same year and settled in Greenwood, where he mined for a year before opening up a bakery and saloon at Poverty Bar, which is on the Middle Fork upriver from Murderer’s Bar. He opened another bakery in Maine Bar, after which he returned to Greenwood, where he bought a hotel, to which he added a billiard parlor and a saloon. The hotel was destroyed by fire but rebuilt the following year. In 1860 Nagler opened a livery stable, and the following year he built the store he operated for many years, being accredited by historian Paolo Sioli as “a good business man and public spirited citizen.” Another Greenwood citizen of note was Cuthbert Nattrass. He was an Englishman who, according to one account, came to California in 1847 with Kit Carson. He left Carson in the pueblo of Los Angeles and went up the coast to Monterey, where he was living when news of James Marshall’s gold discovery reached the presidio. By mid-1848 he was said to be placer mining in Oregon Canyon on the Georgetown Divide. He made a pile and then returned to Wisconsin, where he had left a wife and family. Nattrass planned on returning to California but not for the mining. He wanted to build a hotel in Greenwood Valley. He therefore ordered lumber sufficient to build a two-story structure, and he had it hauled to California via the Isthmus of Panama, using ox carts to get the wood to Panama City. ,In San Francisco Nattrass’ wood was loaded on a river boat and brought to Sacramento, where it was again loaded on ox carts and taken to Greenwood. There, Nattrass built a hotel and saloon, with a barn and livery stable, on Sliger Mine Road. In April 1850, the establishment opened for business. Cuthbert Nattrass in a little over two years had gone from penniless miner to prominent hotel owner in gold country. Like the other early mining towns and camps, Greenwood had its problems with fire. Greenwood was razed by fire on three separate occasions. In 1858 a fire started in an ash barrel in Charles Nagler’s home and consumed the entire business section of the town, including Nagler’s hotel, as well as the Nagler house and a residence belonging to Felix Ricci. Nagler and Ricci would be affected by another Greenwood fire, though with less devastating results. In 1876 a box filled with combustibles caught fire early one morning in front of Ricci’s store, but it was quickly extinguished by Ricci’s clerk who was asleep inside the store (a common practice during the Gold Rush) and awakened by the barking of Nagler’s watchdog who was excited by the flames and smoke. Felix Ricci was another of Greenwood’s prosperous and respected pioneer merchants. Eventually he was said to have commanded a “large share of the trade coming to Greenwood.” Ricci was born in Italy in 1825 and educated in the cabinet-making trade. He came to the United States in 1848, arriving in California midsummer 1849. He mined in Tuolumne County until 1854, when he quit mining and returned to Italy. Ricci returned to America the following year. He moved to American Flat where he erected one of the town’s largest buildings and engaged in the merchandising business before moving on to Greenwood. In Greenwood he built one of the oldest buildings on the Georgetown Divide that still stands on Main Street. Felix’s son Paul inherited the Ricci store in Greenwood notwithstanding the fact that he was blind. He could recognize friends by the sounds of their voices, and he knew where everything was located within the store, including its pot-belly stove in which he made the morning fire. He could also differentiate with his fingers different kinds of legal tender: gold, silver and currency. He was helped in running the story by his sister, who also served as the town postmaster. The demographics of Greenwood Valley showed considerable diversity. There were many other prosperous and civic-minded foreign-born pioneers in the district. G. Bassi was one of them. He was born in Switzerland in 1840, and he herded cattle as a young man. He came to California in 1859, working mines and dairy ranches in Greenwood Valley. Later he opened a store in Greenwood town. In the 1860s he moved to Nevada to work in the Comstock mines. He returned in 1870 and settled on the South Fork near Uniontown where he developed a large cattle ranch. Jacob Winkelman was another foreign-born Greenwood merchant. There were many others besides Ricci and Winkelman. Winkelman was a Swiss immigrant who came to California in 1850, and in 1852 he built a soda factory in Greenwood. He also operated one of the county’s best wineries on the Green Valley Road; and he opened a highly successful brewery, which he later moved to Placerville. George Beattie was a Scotsman born in Edinburgh in 1827. A stone cutter as a young man, he came to California via Cape Horn in 1849. He first mined in Tuolumne County with his brothers Daniel and John Beattie. He then came north and mined in Oregon Canyon on the Georgetown Divide. He discovered rich seam diggings at the Georgia Slide that he developed into one of the largest and richest mines in the district. Simon des Marchais was born in Montreal, Canada in 1827. He was engaged in agricultural pursuits as a young man before coming to California in 1856. After mining at Frenchtown, a few miles south of Placerville, he moved to Greenwood and bought into the seam diggings at the French Mine, which under his subsequent superintendence was said to have developed into one of the best mines in the country. In 1866 des Marchais built a two-story residence for his wife, Amelia, also Canadian, and his five children. Among Greenwood’s native-born pioneers was Isaiah Terry, who was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1832. He came to California in 1852 from New York via the Isthmus of Panama. He mined in the Greenwood Valley until 1868 when he purchased a 300-acre ranch described as “good land, well watered, and provided with buildings and fences.” Terry kept his hand in the mining business by owning and operating the Hoosier Bar Mine on the El Dorado County side of the Middle Fork of the American River. John Stone is buried in the old pioneer cemetery in Greenwood. He is arguably one of the county’s most famous men, though few people today have heard of him. He wrote songs under the pseudonym “Old Put.” The word “put” is a synonym for a “rustic” or a “clown.” Stone affected the manner of each. Stone, when he came to California, was said to have been “a good natured, lazy, hard drinking man who would rather visit saloons and sing for his supper than work.” He mined in Sonora County where he claimed to have pulled out a prodigious “lump” worth $15,000. He sold his claim and moved to Greenwood, where, after dissipating his mining bonanza with whiskey, he committed suicide. Many of Stone’s “Old Put” songs consisted of Iyrics he wrote to be sung to the tune of other compositions, typically traditional ballads from rural sections of the southeast and from England, Scotland and Ireland. His most famous song, for example, was “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” meant to be sung to the tune of “Villihans and His Dinah.” The song is, of course, the rather common tale of a Pike County farmer named Ike who travels overland to California with his girlfriend Betsy, “Two yoke of oxen, a large yellow dog, / A tall Shanghai rooster and one spotted hog.” After the long trek west “They suddenly stopped on a very high hill, / With wonder looked down upon old Placerville; / Ike sighed when he said, and he cast his eyes down, / ‘Sweet Betsy, my darling, we’ve got to Hangtown.” Stone also wrote “Hangtown Girls.” In 1854 Stone published Put’s Original California Songster, a little songbook of 50 pages that sold for a quarter each, went through five editions, and ultimately sold over 25,000 copies. The book included such cynical ditties and old favorites as “The Miner’s Lament,” “Seeing the Elephant,” “The Fools of ’49,” and “The Lousy Miner,” which begins, “It’s four long years since I reached this land, / In search of gold among the rocks and sand, / And yet I’m poor when the truth is told, / I’m a lousy miner in search of gold.”

[Placerville Mountain Democrat, Tuesday, January 2, 2001. Submitted by KKM]


Simpler Times

Simpler times — times that can only pertain to the unique terrain and folklore of old Hangtown — that’s what the Cullerses recall when they sit around together conversing as they did on Monday, March 12, at the Gold Country Retirement Community on Forni Road in Placerville. The place may be different, but the ambiance in this retirement home’s lobby on this day was akin to a holiday gathering in the family home, as this close family laughed and smiled, mustering up memories, twisting them around until they fit like stone pieces in a walkway. Violet Cullers, great-great-grandmother of three, grandmother of 20 and mother of four, had just celebrated her 94th birthday the weekend before, and sat in her purple flowered dress, enjoying the company of her daughter, Diane Truax, 59, and her husband, Richard Truax, 65, both of Rancho Cordova. Another daughter, Lorraine Scott, 75, and her husband Dean Scott, 68, of Gardnerville, Nev., were there too, stopping by to see their mother on their way to Sacramento. “Mom remembers them paving the streets in Placerville,” said Truax, “Now what streets were those?” “I remember when they paved above Pioneer Grocery on Washington and Main,” said Cullers. “My sisters, Francis, and probably Mildred, and I used to go across the field to the highway and sit on the bank and wait for Dad. He would take us to Camino. He had a Ford truck he used to haul freight. It was before I was 10.” Violet Cullers was born on March 9, 1907 in Camino. Cullers’ great-grandfather, Lorenzo Spencer, one of California’s pioneers, was born in 1812 in New Hampshire. He married Fannie Maria Rudd and had four children, moving first to Missouri, then to Ohio, Iowa and arriving in California in 1852. Spencer was a blacksmith and carriage-maker by trade, and later turned his attention to fruit-growing. He had 55 acres of fruit, and was one of the first persons to show that El Dorado County had soil adapted for fruit production, according to a book that Truax found at the Sutro Library in San Francisco, “Representative Citizens of Northern California,” published by Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Co. in 1901. “Lorenzo Spencer came in 1852,” said Truax, “on a wagon train from Bloomfield, Iowa. In September he drove into town, saw a blacksmith shop, and gave him (the blacksmith) $1,000 for the shop. His diary ended in 1852. He was thinking ‘Why did I do this?’” One of Spencer’s sons, Francis Newton, was to become Cullers’ grandfather. Francis Newton was a Republican and voted for Lincoln. He was coroner and public administrator for El Dorado County, positions he filled for eight years, also according to Truax’s book. It was in his later years that Spencer devoted his time to raising fruit and vegetables, was a member of the Odd Fellows and served eight years as a trustee on the school board. As a coroner, Francis Newton had to clean out James Marshall’s cabin, according to Truax. The Spencers were not exempt from catastrophes, a couple of accidents taking the lives of two family members over the years. Francis Newton married Mary Maria Farmer in 1876 and they had seven children, including Cullers’ father, Francis Lorenzo Spencer. One child, Fannie, had died at age 7. “She was in a baby buggy,” said Cullers, thinking back to what she had been told as a child. “The house was on stilts. The older brother gave her a shove and she went out the door and down the mine shaft.” Cullers recalled time spent with her grandmother. “I went with my grandmother,” said Cullers, “...took a basket of flowers to Union Cemetery where most of our relatives are buried. (Our) family used to live where the highway is, near Lyons (restaurant on Broadway).” Cullers’ grandmother, Mary Spencer, died in 1923. Francis Lorenzo married Annie Ramsey Spencer in Nov. 1902 in Placerville. According to Truax, Ramsey is also a longtime Placerville name. Francis Lorenzo was a carpenter by trade. He met an untimely death on Oct. 15, 1929, witnessed by his daughter, Frances, then 24 years old. “She (Frances) was working in Simon’s (clothing) Store at the time ... after she graduated,” said Cullers. “That’s where Dad fell off the building, at the Round Tent.” The Round Tent was originally a round-shaped tent on Main Street in Placerville. But, in 1929, the Round Tent was the name of the building Francis Lorenzo was working on, located across the street from where his daughter was working, where Robinson’s Pharmacy is now. Francis Lorenzo was 51 years old at the time, and Cullers was 21 or 22, and already married. Both Cullers and Truax speak fondly of their mother/grandmother. “Mother was born in Oregon,” said Cullers. She died when she was 86. She took in boarders when Dad died, packers for pears. She worked so hard.” “She ironed her sheets,” Truax added emphatically. “I remember the big thing she ironed her sheets on.” “Grandma Cullers was that way too,” said Cullers. “Mother used to put on Sunday dinners too.” Cullers has an excellent memory, according to her daughters, and to this day comes up with tidbits that surprise the rest of the family. That day, sitting in the lobby, she would start to speak and everyone would stop and listen. “The same day I learned to walk ... They found me at Mrs. Lubold’s,” she said, speaking of the time she “ran away.” She brought up the 4th of July parades in Placerville that are no longer here and the family reminisced about old-time Placerville. Truax talked about her parents dancing in Smith Flat, while her sister, Scott, thought about another place where there was dancing. “Every Saturday night he (Grandpa Henry Cullers) walked from Camino, on the railroad tracks to Merryman’s. Merryman’s used to be a restaurant and a dance hall.” Merryman’s Motor City is now a roller rink in a trailer park where Newtown Road curves by a closed grocery store near the pedestrian overpass on Highway 50. The family, Cullers, the two daughters and sons-in-law who were present, seemed to cherish memories of their father, Clinton Cullers, who died in 1977. “He was in the forest service when we were first married,” said Cullers. “He was at the lookout tower ... The Leek Spring lookout tower.” “I remember Clinton,” said Richard. “He was looking to the west and he reported it (a fire). They said they couldn’t see the fire. Turned out it was a warehouse in Oregon. That’s how clean our air used to be.” Cullers had her own memories of the lookout tower. “The lightning struck the tower six times, and the seventh time it was the house. We got out of there. It melted it (the telephone) inside. The fire came out this far (from the telephone),” she said, spreading her arms about three feet wide. “We lived in a cabin that was close to the tower.” Clinton and Violet Cullers raised four children, three girls including Truax, Scott and their sister Anne Cullers, now 57, and one boy, Don Cullers, now 65. “Don went every Saturday to the Empire Theater (on Main Street),” said Cullers. Other family members expressed their unhappiness over the loss of the theater. Clinton had several different types of jobs over the years, including working for PG&E, Placerville Lumber Co., and for a mining company, which would fortuitously lead him to another occupation. “In the ’50s, Father used to work in the slate mine at Chili Bar,” said Truax. “He would come home totally covered in dust from hauling 100-pound sacks of slate. It was too much physically, so he became a school bus driver. Kids remember him fondly. He gave out candy.” Clinton retired in 1966, after he became “head custodian of the elementary schools in town,” said Cullers. While the children were growing up, the family spent a lot of time at Wrights Lake. They also had a favorite pastime that is relevant particularly to this region. “We used to go rock hunting a lot,” said Cullers. The rest of the family agreed. “I had a box with a glass top with the crystals in it (quartz). I still have it.” Other family activities were just driving in the car, sometimes to Georgetown, “looking for deer, singing songs and doing family things,” said Truax. These days Cullers keeps busy at the retirement community, where her sister, Mildred, 90, is also living. “My mother’s very active,” said Truax. “She spends most of her days playing games.” Truax is in the process of compiling a book about their family history. “A lot of our relatives are buried in Pioneer Cemetery in Uppertown Placerville ... from the 1860s,” said Truax. “Their graves are unmarked. “In around 1909-1910 the Courthouse burned down. A lot of our records were lost. Luckily they had some things stored away from the Courthouse.” One thing is for sure, El Dorado County has been good to the Spencer-Cullers family, and as Truax said, “It will always be home.”

[Placerville Mountain Democrat, Thursday, 5-31-2001. Submitted by KKM]


New Jersey Farm Boy Finds Gold and Fame in California

The following biographical sketch of James Wilson Marshall was written by Philip Baldwin Bekeart in 1924 for the Society of California Pioneers: James Wilson Marshall was born at Round Mountain Farm near Marshall’s Corner Hope Township, Hunterdon County, N.J. Oct. 8, 1810. His father, Philip Marshall, a man well known in that part of New Jersey, was born on the same farm in 1786. Philip died in 1834, at Lambertsville, N.J. and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Marshall’s mother, Sarah Wilson, was born in 1788, and died in 1878. She was buried beside her husband. Marshall’s paternal grandmother was Rebecca Hart, daughter of John Hart, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Marshall’s ancestors on both sides were of English stock, though he stated that he had one-eighth Delaware Indian blood in his veins. At 21 Marshall heads west. His boyhood and early manhood were probably like most others of that day. He learned to shoot his flint-lock rifle, and he received, for that time and place, what might be called a good education. He learned his trade with his father, who was a wheelwright. After his 21st birthday, he bade his father, mother and sisters goodbye, and started west, a soldier of fortune. He little dreamed when he commenced this journey, that it would end in a place he had never seen or heard of, where his name would be linked with one of the world’s greatest discoveries, nor could he have conceived the possibility of being the direct cause of the wildest excitement the modern world has ever known. His first stop was Crawfordsville, Ind., where he worked as a carpenter in order to provide funds for further westward travel. He then went to Warsaw, Ill., but his pioneer blood again urged him West, and he finally arrived at a government land reserve known as the Platte Purchase, near Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. (then in Missouri). Here he located a homestead and planted grain, meanwhile working as a carpenter and trapper. After two or three years, he became afflicted with fever and ague, which caused him more than six years of misery. His physician finally told him that he had but two years to live, and he concluded to die in the open. Joining an emigrant train bound for California, and with his horse, rifle, hatchet, knife and blanket, he again started for the West. The emigrant train left Platte Purchase, May 1, 1844. There were 1,400 emigrants in the party, with over 100 wagons. Marshall was then in his 34th year. The party traveled northwest from Ft. Leavenworth, along the North Fork of the Platte River, and in the fall reached Ft. Hall, a frontier post which is situated near the headwaters of the Snake River, about 150 miles due north of what is now Ogden. The route they traveled had been explored the preceding year, 1843, by Capt. John C. Fremont. The winter of 1844-45 was an extremely stormy one, and the emigrants were obliged to winter at Ft. Hall. Early in 1845, the emigrant party separated, most of them starting for California with the wagons, through what is now Idaho, and then across the desert by way of Humboldt Sink and Pyramid Lake. Marshall and about 40 others without wagons, decided to go to Oregon. They made the trip to the Willamette River, the first party to go through without trouble with the Indians, possibly due to the fact that they were all well mounted and well armed. He then joined Capt. Clyman’s band of adventurers, composed of plainsmen, trappers and settlers, and in the spring of 1845 started for California. They traveled south through the Willamette Valley, then east towards Klamath Lake. They crossed the Siskiyous and then followed the Klamath River down to the head of Shasta Valley, thence past Mount Shasta and the Sutter Buttes, and camped on Cache Creek, about 40 miles above Sutter’s Fort (now Sacramento). Here the party broke up, some going south to Yerba Buena and the valleys, and others, Marshall amongst them, on to Sutter’s Fort, where he arrived early in July 1845. He was dressed entirely in buckskin, like the plainsmen and trappers of that day, their clothing being made of deer, antelope and beaver skins. He was a welcome addition to Capt. Sutter’s colony because of his trade, and he was immediately hired by Sutter, being paid with cattle, horses and ammunition. He accumulated some livestock and bought two leagues of land on the north side of Little Butte Creek in Butte County, where he planted grain and commenced to raise stock. In the spring of 1846, Marshall was one of a score of white men, who with a number of friendly Indians helped to protect Sutter’s Fort by a march against the Mokelumne Indians, who were driven back to the missions. In the summer of1846, the Bear Flag War broke out and Marshall joined the Bear Flag Party, and afterwards fought with the California Battalion to the end of the Mexican War of 1846-48. He was at the battle of San Pasqual Dec. 6, 1847, with Capt. Gillespie’s California Volunteers. He was discharged at San Diego in March1847, and made his way on foot to Sutter’s Fort after an absence of nearly one year, arriving at the fort barefooted and in a very sorry plight, as did many others who volunteered in the Bear Flag War. James Gregson, one of the volunteers, says he was actually starving, and at San Francisco was forced to ask a United States officer for something to eat, the United States officers having discharged him, as they did Marshall, without pay. On visiting his ranch, Marshall found that nearly all his stock was strayed or stolen, and himself, as he stated, “penniless.’’ Shortly after his return, he sold this ranch. He often spoke of the ingratitude of the “stay-at-homes’’ and newcomers who robbed him while he was away, fighting for California. Incidentally, Marshall never received one cent in payment of his services in the Bear Flag War. His name does not appear in the Bear Flag list, but there is no complete record of the volunteers in the Bear Flag War, nor of Americans residing in California who fought in the Mexican war of 1846-48, many names having been lost or left out by mistake. It is a disputed point as to whether Marshall first broached the idea of a sawmill to Sutter or Sutter to him. Sutter wanted timber for buildings and fences and to sell to settlers, also to ship to Yerba Buena. So Marshall was instructed to find a suitable spot for a sawmill - a place with good timber and on a river or stream, that would float the timber to the Embarcadero, now the foot of M Street, Sacramento, or permit it to be hauled to Sutter’s Fort by teams. He first explored the Cosumnes River, but not finding a suitable location here turned to the fort. He then decided to explore the American River for a site, and on May 16, 1847 he left Sutter’s Fort with an Indian guide and two companions named Treador and Grimes, and on the 20th they were joined by a man with the euphonious name of Gingery. They reached Weber Creek and followed it down to the American River, exploring up and down the South Fork of the American River, where Marshall finally selected the spot he afterwards made historic. On returning to the fort, he reported to Sutter, drawing a rough sketch of the valley, the yellow pine trees, the river and the proposed site of the mill. This sketch, and a drawing of the proposed mill, were presented to the State Library at Sacramento, by John Sipp of Kelsey, who at one time was Marshall’s partner in the “Grey Eagle’’ mine. On Aug. 19, 1847, Sutter and Marshall signed a partnership agreement, Sutter agreeing to furnish the capital for the erection of the sawmill at Coloma, and Marshall agreeing to superintend the building and the running of the mill, the partners to share equally in the profits. John Bidwell drew up the contract, which was witnessed by Samuel Kyburz. Marshall and his workmen left Sutter’s Fort Sept. 27, 1847, carrying with them the outfit for the sawmill. They were obliged to cut roads in some places and were several days in reaching the valley. They first built a double log cabin for themselves, having a passageway between the two parts, which afterwards became the store of Hastings and Company. Marshall built a separate log cabin for himself on the side of a nearby hill, which was burned in the fall of 1848 by the rough element who stole his land and timber. He and his men then began work on the sawmill, which was practically finished when he discovered the first flake. Bigler, in his diary, says he entered Sutter’s employ Sept. 17, 1847 and he went to Coloma with Marshall, Sept. 27, 1847. He records the fact that the first log was not sawed until March 11, 1848, due to the lack of mill irons.(Early maps designate the spot as “Saw Mill,’’ not Coloma.) John Bidwell, who was a clerk for Sutter at the fort, says in his manuscript: “The mill was a very good one of its kind.’’ James Gregson, who was the blacksmith at the fort, says he made a contract to do the blacksmithing for Sutter and Marshall, though Charles Bennett went with the party as blacksmith. At this time, the entire party at the sawmill consisted of the following persons: James W. Marshall, Peter L. Wimmer, his wife, Elizabeth Jane Wimmer, their two young sons John and Martin Wimmer, Charles Bennett, William Scottand six young Mormons recently discharged from the U.S. Mormon Battalion, viz: Henry W. Bigler, Azariah Smith, James S. Brown, Alexander Stephens, William Johnson and James Berger. There were also 10 Indians on the place who were hired to help the men. One or more of the Indians could speak Spanish. History is very clear in regard to the fact that there were no other white men in the vicinity of Coloma at the time of Marshall’s discovery of gold; therefore, the claims of all others who stated that they were present on Jan.24, 1848, were fraudulent. When Marshall left the fort for the mill, he had with him Ira and Sidney Willis, also William Kountze and Ezekiel Persons, but they all returned to Sutter’s Fort shortly after their arrival at the mill and were not there at the time of the discovery. Israel Evans, a Mormon in Sutter’s employ, claimed in after years to have been at Coloma, Jan. 24, but existing records, with one exception, do not bear out this claim. James S. Brown, who did not keep a diary, wrote a book in 1894; he says Evans was there. He also names Bigler, Smith, Stephens, Johnson, Berger, and himself. Previous to the discovery, and while testing the wheel, Marshall found that the mill-race was not deep enough, and he therefore had the floodgate opened each night, permitting the water to run through the race all night, in order to widen and deepen the channel. In the mornings the water was shut off, and the Indians would throw out the boulders that the water left bare. Marshall had observed “yellow specks’’ the evening of the 23rd, and that night mentioned to some of the men that “he thought he had found a gold mine.’’ On the morning of Jan. 24, 1848, he threw the wheel out of gear, shut off the water, and had the Indians pack the bottom of the gate with “grass and dirt.’’ He then stepped into the race to see what progress had been made and also to closely examine the yellow specks he had observed the evening before. Near the lower end of the race, on a rock about six inches under the water, he picked up a flake of yellow metal, the historic first piece of gold. It was shaped like a small melon seed, and was worn very thin and smooth, as is all river gold. Marshall was alone at the time. He picked up a few more flakes and took the first and largest piece and bit it. He hammered it on a flat rock with a stone and found it was malleable. He was satisfied that he had found gold. The first man to whom Marshall showed the flakes was William Scott, who was in the mill. Johnson, Stephens, Bigler, and Brown next saw the gold. Peter and Jennie Wimmer were up at the cabin at the time and Bennett and Smith were sick in their cabin which they had built and finished only a few days before. Young John Wimmer was out hunting for the oxen. After Marshall had shown the gold to the men, he took it to Mrs. Wimmer, who was making soap, and she boiled the flake in strong lye. It showed no sign of discoloration the next morning when cut out of the cold soap in the bottom of the kettle. He then took the flake to Charles Bennett and instructed him to beat it out thin on the blacksmith’s anvil, which again proved its malleability. (The flake in the Smithsonian Institution has particles of granite and oxide of iron embedded in it, another proof that it is the first piece of gold hammered between two rocks by Marshall and then flattened out on the blacksmith anvil by Bennett.) Marshall states, and all authorities agree, that he knew he had found gold when he picked up the first flake. Work on the mill continued for six weeks after the discovery of gold. In passing, it should be stated that the faithful Mormons remained with Marshall until the end of their contract, but after the discovery, Bigler dug gold out of the crevices in the rocks along the river each Sunday and also on days that he went hunting for deer, having been delegated by Marshall to furnish meat for the tables. Henry W. Bigler, one of the Mormon workmen, 19 years of age at the time, is the best authority on the events connected with Marshall and Sutter’s Mill. In a letter which he wrote to the San Francisco Bulletin, which was published Jan. 2, 1871, he says: “And there sure enough, in the top of his hat crown was the pure metal - how much I do not know, probably an ounce. One of our company (the Mormon Battalion, War of 1846) by the name of Azariah Smith, pulled out a $5 piece and compared the coin with the particles. There was a difference in looks, but this was accounted for on account of the alloy in the coin.’’ In a letter to Bancroft, July 5, 1872, Bigler describes the first gold in Marshall’s hat “from the smallest particles up to the size of a kernel of wheat or larger. Most of it was very thin flakes. The coarse was more round and in little cubes - in fact all sizes and shapes.’’ Four days after his discovery, Marshall left for Sutter’s Fort with his gold. Sutter laconically records in his diary: “Friday, Jan. 28, Mr. Marshall arrived from the mountains on very important business. Saturday, Jan. 29,1848, Mr. Marshall left for the mountains.’’ Capt. John Augustus Sutter kept a daily diary, but his best description of Marshall’s find is found in an interview which he gave to J. M. Hutchings, the publisher of Hutchings’ Magazine, who made a trip to Sutter’s Fort, and wrote out Sutter’s version of the discovery, which Sutter read and signed. The entire article is too long to quote. In fact it belongs in a good history of Sutter, which is yet to be written. In this article Sutter relates that he wanted a sawmill so he could sell lumber to the small village of Yerba Buena (now San Francisco). He also speaks of hiring the men for the sawmill, and of his contract with Marshall. It was a rainy afternoon when Marshall arrived at Sutter’s office in the Fort. He told Sutter that he had some important and interesting news that he wished to impart to him secretly. “Marshall took a rag from his pocket and showed me the yellow metal. He had about two ounces of it, which consisted of small pieces and specimens, some of them worth a few dollars. They tested the gold with aqua fortis and then gathered what silver coin they could find. Marshall made a pair of balances and by putting an equal weight of gold against the silver, which amounted to $2.75 and then immersing both the gold and silver in water, it was found that the gold was the heavier of the two metals, and Sutter declared it to be 23-carat gold. Marshall left that night for Coloma, though Sutter’s diary says he left the next day for Coloma. The secret of Marshall’s find was kept for a few weeks only, and then the rush began which eventually ruined both Marshall and Sutter. Timber was sawed in the mill until the latter part of 1848 by Sutter and Marshall, and afterward by Marshall, Ragley and Winters, who bought out Sutter’s interest in the mill. The lumber sold in 1849 for $500 per thousand feet. After the gold rush started, timber became scarce, all the available timber trees near Coloma having been cut down by miners. The mill was forced to stop, and the logs and boards were stolen by unscrupulous miners. Marshall’s notices of ownership of all the land and stock were posted all over the valley, but very few paid any attention to his rightful claim of ownership, and when he brought suit against the thieves he was invariably beaten in the courts. On two occasions, in 1848 and 1849, his life was threatened and he was driven out of Coloma. His cabin was burned and his property stolen.

[Placerville Mountain Democrat, Friday, 2-11-2005. Submitted by KKM]


The Fleming Jones Homestead Bed and Breakfast Was Built 126 years Ago

The Fleming Jones Homestead Bed and Breakfast located on Highway 50 east of Placerville was built 126 years ago in 1883. Originally a working dairy and cattle ranch homesteaded by Fleming and Florence (Flora) Jones, the property was settled in the 1850s by Fleming's parents, Napoleon and Minerva Jones of Wisconsin. It has been a bed and breakfast since 1980 when Janice Condit, a retired professor from Santa Barbara opened the bed and breakfast originally. The current owners and innkeepers, Mark and Robin Miller, bought the property in 1999 from Janice and Phil Condit (former CEO of Boeing) and reopened the bed and breakfast in 2001. Janice was befriended by Fleming's granddaughter, Fay Jones Rupley Gunby Cannon, who relayed many a family story including the fact that the bed and breakfast main house was built with gambling money. Fleming's family was French-Swiss in origin and they had farm laborers from Switzerland working for them according to the 1870 U.S. Census. Fleming Jones was a member of the Pioneers of El Dorado, a branch of the Society of Territorial Pioneers of 1849 and 1850. He passed away July 16, 1893 at 43 years of age. His gravestone in the Smith's Flat cemetery states "A place is vacant in our home, which never can be filled." Also a Wisconsin native, Flora Jones came to California with her parents. Unlike Fleming's family who sailed around the horn, Flora's family came across the plains. Her father, William Y. Decker, was an early-day lumberman in the Sacramento/Placerville area. Sometime after Fleming died, Flora Jones married Maurice Welch. There is a possibility that Maurice Welch could be the same person in the story relayed to the writer of the "I Remember." The story notes that Fleming had hired a butcher named "Mr. Walch" for his shop downtown next to the Cary House hotel. It was written "due to Flora's cordial feeling toward everyone and particularly because of her attachment and interest in young people that she was able to gather a collection of artifacts." Her granddaughter, Fay Jones, donated to the El Dorado Historical Society the first permanent and oldest building on Placerville's Main Street, the Fountain and Tallman Soda Works building erected in 1852. It houses a small museum with interesting artifacts and photographs. Welch passed away in 1920 and Flora died at the age of 81 in December 1932. Fleming and Flora had two sons, Robert Lauren (1875 - 1944) and William Albian (1871 - 1943) who grew up in the bed and breakfast main house. William (who went by Al, short for Albian) is the father of Fay Jones. Fay grew up at the homestead and married the boy next door - Albert (AKA A.J.) Rupley. While few today remember the stretch of Highway 50 referred to as the "Rupley Grade," many who have driven to Apple Hill have seen the two-story Rupley home on the south side of Highway 50. Rebuilt in 1929 for Flora on the site of the old Rupley home that had burned down, A.J. Rupley built the house with lumber from the business he owned - the A.J. Rupley Forest Products (logging operations and sawmills). A.J. also initiated the building of a series of dams near the Jones Ranch (as the Fleming Jones Homestead was known then) on the Rupley property. The third and largest one was built nearly 50 years ago after A.J. had passed away by Fay Rupley Gunby. It was built to store 135 acre feet of water and cover 10 acres of land. Visible to the east of Newtown Road, the "pond" located on the property where the former El Dorado Bonsai was situated was built to irrigate the Fleming Jones Homestead's orchards and pastures. Technical help was gained from the El Dorado County Soil Conservation district for the project and the "pond's" dam is named the Fay Gunby 1464-002 dam. The dam can be found marked on the USGS 7.5' Camino map. Once an area known for it's pears until the late 1960s pear blight came through and Apple Hill subsequently established, the Jones Ranch produced pears in addition to cattle. There are three of the old Bartlett pear trees left out of the many that once lined the front pasture, which continue to produce a bumper crop of pears every other year much to the delight of the bed and breakfast guests. The pears and beef from this working cattle ranch were sold not only in Placerville at their store, the City Market, but they had five delivery routes throughout the county. Fleming and Flora ran their cattle in the summertime in the Silver Creek area and the tributary called Jones Silver is named after Fleming. Where the slaughter house once stood is now a vineyard planted years ago by Janice Condit in conjunction with the University of California, Davis to determine what would grow well in the area. In addition to the vineyard, there are four "thick as a tree trunk" Isabella grape vines brought by the families from Italy who settled in Newtown. These elderly vines are prolific producers and the grapes are eaten in handfuls by the bed and breakfast guests. An area gaining a current reputation for its fine wines, El Dorado County produced 108,981 gallons of wine in 1870. Elmer Fossati, who perhaps is currently best known for his part behind Boeger Winery's history, was a friend of the family. He carved the old wooden stove handles that grace the bed and breakfast's antique Holbrook stove. An avid gardener, a number of Elmer's hybridized Canna lilies are on grand display each summer at the bed and breakfast as they burst forth in brilliant orange, red and golden hues. There are over 140 rose bushes on the property. The majority are antique roses with a nice complement of hybrid teas. Condit relayed to the Miller's that the El Dorado County Historic Rose Society got its start at the Jones Ranch. In 2007 the bed and breakfast opened its gardens in support of the El Dorado Community Pride annual Garden Tour. Photographs of the various roses can be found on the bed and breakfast Website at robinsnestranch.com/Gallery/album10. Running through the property are remnants of the Old Parker (Weber) Water Ditch built in 1852 which brought water to the miners at the base of the hill. Ditches and wooden flumes provided the miners and farmers with water paid for by the cubic foot per hour. While many water companies popped up during the 1870s, eventually through a number of acquisitions and laws passed in 1884, the El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Company became the El Dorado Water Company. This water company was taken over in 1925 by the El Dorado Irrigation District. One of Fay Jones' mines, the Hazel Creek, produced about $2 million dollars in 1947 and 1948. With numerous placer claims (alluvial deposits) nearby the Fleming Jones Homestead, guests of all ages have found hours of entertainment finding gold dust and crystals. Many square nails (like the ones used to build the big red barn that predates the main house), an old horse bit, a Chinese temple token, Chinese pottery, an early mid-1800s handmade marble and an antique money clip plus various bottles and jars are a few of the treasures found on the property by the Millers. The Rupley family had a way station in the 1850s located south of the Rupley home mentioned earlier. This was the first major overnight stage stop for traveler's east of Placerville. Once a wagon trail, Highway 50 became California's first state highway in 1895. Before that, it was primarily comprised of sections of trails developed by land owners who were authorized to charge a toll for improvements. A section of the Placerville toll road was built and operated by John M. Moore (Moore's Station). Moore's Station was a remount and horse change station for stagecoaches and the Pony Express riders. John M. Moore would have presumably known Fleming Jones as the cattle would have passed through the station on the way to Silver Creek to summer each year. That route would minimize river crossings. John M. Moore is also the current Fleming Jones Homestead owner's uncle's great-great grandfather (Eugene J. Houghton Jr.). Toll collection ended in 1886 when El Dorado County bought the private sections. This section of Moore's Station (now known as Riverton) became part of the Sierra Nevada route of the Lincoln Highway, part of the first transcontinental road system. Travelers across country stayed at auto clubs or auto parks where auto camping was popular. A photograph of Merryman's Auto Park (1925) hangs in the bed and breakfast dining room which was located near Motor City (one mile north of the Jones Ranch on Newtown Road). To find out more about the Fleming Jones Homestead Bed and Breakfast at 3170 Newtown Road in Placerville, call Robin Miller, innkeeper and owner at (530) 344-0943 to go to robinsnestranch.com.

[Placerville Mountain Democrat, Wednesday, 11-18- 2009. Submitted by KKM]


El Dorado County Pioneer Family to Have a Family Reunion

On Sunday, June 20, nearly 100 descendants of Anton Paul Meyer and Cora (Voss) Meyer, El Dorado County pioneers, will host a Meyer Family Reunion at the Henningson-Lotus Park near Coloma. Anton's parents, El Dorado County pioneers Anton Meier Sr., (later to become Meyer) and wife Katherina, came to America from Basel, Switzerland, landing in New York City, Oct. 26, 1874, on the ship 'Calabria.' Anton was approximately 29 years old. The Basel region culturally extends into German Baden-Wurttemberg and French Alsace. They received their citizenship between 1880 and 1882. It is believed that the spelling changed from Meier to Meyer at that time. The Meyers settled in Empire City, Nev., for a short time then moved to the Pi Pi Valley/Grizzly Flat areas in approximately 1886, where they owned several hundred acres, together with Anton's brother Joseph, who owned nearly 1,000 acres. Joseph had come to America much earlier and was naturalized in 1860. He also owned the 80 acre Last Chance Placer Mine. Anton was listed as a hotel keeper and both men were listed as mining drift and lode miners and doing ranching and farming. In a 2003 Archaeological Reconnaissance Report from Judy Rood, Placerville District Archaeologist for the El Dorado National Forest, the land owned by Anton and Joseph Meyer was considered to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or NRHP, along with that of fellow pioneers Agostino Sciaroni Sr. and Stefano Leoni, both close friends of Anton and Katharina. Unfortunately the sites did not meet all the criteria for the NRHP at that time. Eight children were born to Anton and Katharina: Emil 1871, Mary 1873, Louis 1875, Alice 1878, Anton Paul 1882, Nellie 1879, Carl 1885 and Rose 1886. Pictures of the Meyers hang today in the entrance to the Diamond Springs Hotel Restaurant, which Anton and Katharina built around 1900. An article and picture in the Mt. Democrat on July 21, 1923, announced the celebration of their 53rd anniversary. Anton Paul Meyer and his wife Cora Bell (Voss) Meyer, who are featured in the book 'I Remember ...,' a book of the El Dorado County pioneers, had five children: George, Alfred, William (who died at the age of 8), Leslie and Lorene. Les (who turned 93 years old in May of this year) remembers going to the old hotel to see his grandparents, Anton and Katharina. Lorene (85) was very young and does not remember her grandparents. Les remembers how the hotel was decorated and everything about the old hotel/restaurant. Anton and Katharina lived in the house just below the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, where Anton Sr., was very active. Their home still stands today. Descendants of the senior Meyers number literally in the hundreds, most of whom remain in the El Dorado County area. The Meyer Family reunion is Sunday, June 20, at the Henningson Lotus Park at 11 a.m. The family is inviting interested community residents to join the family at the Diamond Springs Hotel Restaurant at 8 a.m. that morning for breakfast.

[Placerville Mountain Democrat, Friday, 6-11-2010. Submitted by KKM]

 

On the Golden Shores – A California Pioneer’s Story

Baltimore American, 11-19-1887- Transcribed by Kathie Marynik

[From the Overland Monthly]—Two of us went to Sacramento again where we met a darky who had come out from New York with George Hyatt, and he wished us to go immediately with him to Placer County. He said he had found a place where the gold could be taken out in large pieces. He had blazed the trees on the way out and could find the place again. We started with him at once and came out at what is now called Todd’s Valley. Todd was then building his log cabin there for a store and tavern. From here we went up on the divide and, wandering about the woods, at last found the blazes on the trees, which finally led us into what is still known by the euphonious name of Shirt-tail Canon. We camped here overnight, and in the morning set to prospecting with good results, proving the truth of our guide. We hastened back to the city, and when we returned we found a few other parties there at work. We could make four to six ounces a day, and many made as high as one thousand dollars a day with their pans. Claims were here as well as elsewhere fifteen feet square. Water came in rapidly as we went down. This drove us away, and we returned for a while up to El Dorado County. This time we went high up, about fifteen miles from Johnson’s ranch on the emigrant road, intending to cross the river and go over towards Coloma after prospecting. But after we had crossed some very heavy canons and had come to the river, we found it impossible to ford it there. About noon, one of our party fell into the river. After getting out, he spread his wet clothes on the rocks to dry, and when he went to get them, what was his astonishment to find shining in a crevice some particles of bright gold. We were not long in breaking open the rock and found that the crevice contained about sixty dollars which we extracted with a knife and washed out in a pan. We concluded to camp there; so going up on the hill and staking our animals to good feed, we tried the bar. It was a small one, but we had to use crowbars and a hammer, a knife and pan—scarcely any dirt to wash; but we could get out from three to five pounds of gold in a day. Every two or three days, I would saddle up and go down the old emigrant trail (then traversed daily by hundreds of emigrants from the States) and, wending my way to Johnson’s ranch, would deposit with him for safe-keeping our gold. He wished to find out where I got it, so when I started back, he would send someone to track me. I always started in the evening and camped on the road, somewhere where I found emigrants already camped so that if followed, I could manage before morning to slip away without being discovered by my shadow. After I had done this a few times and had several thousand dollars in Johnson’s keeping, he became resolute to find out our whereabouts. So finally, he sent a lot of Indians, thirty-two in number, to track us up. This they did the next day by following up the river and watching for some slight discoloration of the water such as would be produced by washing the dirt. It so happened that upon going up this time, we had taken with us a Portuguese whom we wanted to do our cooking and packing and as he was a good shot also for game. About noon, while we were at the lower end of the bar, I heard Joe sing out, “Look out—there comes the Indians!” And sure enough they were approaching us from below on both sides of the river. They had no intent of harm, desiring only to find us and our whereabouts, but Portuguese Joe, without waiting for orders, opened fire. The shot went whizzing by my head, aimed at the nearest Indian, but at the same instant, I motioned him to jump into the river which he lost no time in doing. The rest got away as fast as they came. I expostulated with Joe for his imprudence but he thought he knew what was right. I told him they would return and kill us all. He said, “No, Indian come no more.” I told him we should have to look out now for they would be on us before we knew it, and where we were it was impossible to get out except in one way, and that way these Indians knew as well as we did. Sure enough, not two hours later, the Indians made their appearance, and this time where they had the advantage on the bluff above our heads. Our chance of getting away by the pass we had entered by was cut off, and we stood a poor showing of escaping their vengeance. Showers of arrows came down thick and fast, but by keeping up close under the hill we managed to evade them as they overshot all the time. We were now in a dilemma. We could not cross the river where we were for it was a narrow channel between the sides of the gorge and the current ran very strong. As to anyone coming to our aid, that was not to be thought of for we were miles ahead of where any prospecting had been done at that time, and there was no possibility of anyone finding us. We kept close up under the bluff all that afternoon but were kept in anxiety by the continuous rolling down of rock and stone upon us from above and when we tried to escape these, the arrows would be brought into play. Night came on, but we knew the darkness would not help us for our only mode of egress was guarded by the Indians. One of our boys tried to clamber around at another place to get out and make known our situation but failed to do so. The next morning, however, a little reconnoitering showed us one point where, by throwing a lasso up into a tree above, there might be a chance but it would not do to try it in the daytime. So waiting till the dusk set in, my companion went to work to make his exit. The place was about a quarter of a mile above on the river and just where a projection of the wall of rock came down to the river, cutting off all further communication up the stream at that point. While he made the attempt, we moved about on the bar to attract attention that way in case the Indians should be on the watch. This time he succeeded, got out safely, and communicated with a body of men who came to our relief the next day—making indiscriminate war at the same time upon every Indian they met. This was the beginning of the El Dorado Indian War in which Major McKinney and a portion of his command were killed—an incident in the history of that country that very few have ever known the cause of all—Portuguese Joe’s foolish and unprovoked shot. Many lost their lives by that Indian war. We had escaped the Indians, but our secret diggings were overrun with men in twenty-four hours and our time was up. Within two days after we left, one man found in a crevice on the bar we had left a single piece of pure gold, weighing nine pounds. Upon getting out, we found our horses were gone—probably taken by the Indians at the first. We left all our tools and baggage on the bar and never returned for them. We went down to Johnson’s and got from him our money that I had deposited with him. He explained that in sending up the Indians, it was with no other intention than that of discovering our whereabouts so as to reap some of the benefits, and that but for the indiscretion of our man, the Portuguese, no harm whatever would have come of their visit as they were entirely peaceable unless molested. We soon got away from this part of the country which was now in a state of great disturbance, and we fairly launched on a regular nomadic life of unrest, wishing to be constantly on the move, ready for adventure and chance. The men in the mines of these early days were not the stereotyped miners of the present day. They were in nearly every instance young men, full of fire and ambition, most of them gentlemen, intelligent, well-educated, and well-bred, men who had means at home but had come out here from a spirit of adventure, intending only to remain a year or two, then go home and enjoy the competency that everyone believed he was sure to obtain. But the adage “Easy got, easy go” was verified in almost every instance, and here is just where the old Californians and their families got their prodigal habits—taking no thought for the future, living up to and beyond their incomes, however large; a habit that has become so engrafted upon even the present generation that it cannot be uprooted no matter how great the pressure of the times. Why even at this late day, I know men who will spend fifty dollars to have a good time at night at the opera or a banquet and its accompaniments, and borrow fifty cents to get their breakfast the next morning. Now as the mines promised such immense and speedy fortunes, almost all went to them in their endeavors to acquire sudden riches. Some, with only pick, pan and spoon or knife, met with fabulous success, while many others were doomed to as great disappointments. Rockers sold at fifty dollars to one hundred dollars each. Men made from two ounces to twenty a day and frequently picked up pieces of from five dollars to five hundred dollars each, and I am personally acquainted with one man, a Mr. Strain (still living) who picked up a piece of pure gold that was worth ten thousand dollars. This find was made at Knapp’s ranch near Columbia in Tuolumne County. A Frenchman, who was on the point of starving at the time, found another in Tree Pine Gulch near the same town that weighed five thousand dollars. His prosperity was too much for the temperament of the Frank, and he immediately became insane and never recovered. He died in the asylum at Stockton. The gold was given the French consul for the benefit of his relations in France. It is estimated on good authority that this Columbia basin within a space of not over three miles square has produced in all, within twenty-five years, the enormous sum of one hundred million dollars or about one-thirteenth of the product of the whole state. The largest piece of gold extracted in the state was taken from Calaveras County. It weighed one hundred and ninety-five pounds troy or about thirty-nine thousand dollars.


THE PIONEERS CACHE

Oakland Tribune, May 13—The old miners of the “palmy days” made banks of deposit in oyster cans buried under the hearths of their cabins and in all manner of out-of-the-way places. In tearing down an old cabin in Nevada lately, a buckskin purse, stiff and grim with age but full of shining gold, fell from a rafter and became the prize of the purchaser of the premises. The old cabin was occupied by a miner years ago and long since dead. Above Placerville there is a large flat which in early days was very rich in gold, and the old chimneys of the miners’ cabins still dot the flat like the ruins of a Bashan village. Every hearthstone has been torn up and prospected for deposits, and around the cabins are prospect holes sunk by the latter-day comers in search of hidden treasure. Not a few were successful, and many an old oyster can has been found hidden away, filled with the precious metal left by the early miners who wandered off, expecting to return or left by those who suddenly died with their boots on. Above Green Valley on the American River is a bar which in early days was immensely rich. Two miners worked the bar years ago and suddenly disappeared. Several years after, the bar fell into other hands, a shaft was sunk to bedrock, and large quantities of gold taken out. One day a Mexican came upon the ground and asked permission to prospect one end of the bar near a large rock. He was granted permission and, after working a few days, disappeared. He went to Dutch Flat and sold several thousand dollars’ worth of gold dust, which, coming to the knowledge of the owners of the ground, they examined the place where he had worked and discovered that he had found a cache, probably the gold mined and hid by the early pioneers who had so suddenly disappeared. The mining sections of the state are rich with these deposits of the old miners who disappeared, leaving no trace behind, and whose bones lie bleaching on mountain top, in canon and ravine, with no monument to mark their last resting place save the tall pines which sing requiems over the graves of these lost ones. Could the early history of California be written in all its details, it would form a volume of romance, startling as it would be interesting, and it would again demonstrate the fact that truth is stranger than fiction. [Placer Argus, Auburn, Thursday, 5-21-1885 Submitted by KKM]

 
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